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Fun in the Waves at OWL Rafting

August 22, 2016 10:08 am
Fun in the Waves at OWL Rafting

All photos by Isabel Payne. 

In early August the OLM team had the opportunity to spend the day white water rafting on the Ottawa River with OWL Rafting. Located about an hour and a half outside of Ottawa, OWL rafting provides fun outdoor adventures ranging from one day rafting trips to two day adventure packages. We opted for their one-day Adventure Rafting, which took us through a number of rolling rapids along the winding Ottawa River. Unsure of what the day had in store for us, we set off to Owl Lane with excitement overlapping any nerves.

GOPR0129Our day began bright and early at the main OWL base for sign-in. It is there you get to meet your guide for the day, as well as learn about the boat you’ll be in and the kind of equipment you’ll be wearing. Life vests, helmets and paddles are provided for everyone at the lodge. When our team was set, a bus took us up the river to a small beach where the rafts awaited. Once on the water, the hard work begins. Our guide taught us the basics for controlling and steering the boat and then set us off towards our first rapid. As we held on to the rope lining our raft, we were flung in all sorts of directions as we careened down what our guide said would be the largest and most powerful rapid of the day. Those seated at the front got a huge surprise as they found themselves practically underwater as they were drenched by a massive wave. After our initial passage, we soon turned around and went back to the same rapids to do multiple rounds of “surfing” the waves. According to our guide, rapids shift and change throughout the seasons, with some being huge in the spring and then drying out as the weather heats up for the summer. So each trip would be different from our experience that day.


Midway through the trip we took a brief break from paddling and stopped for some fun cliff jumping and re-hydration. Those of us who couldn’t brave the jumping simply took a moment to marvel at how beautiful the forest around us was. Once we were feeling properly full of snacks, we were back on the river paddling off to our next rapids.


Rafters climb aboard the makeshift slide.

Although the later rapids weren’t close to the size of the first one we hit, we still had that same rush of adrenaline as our boat was flung forwards and backwards, threatening to dislodge anyone who wasn’t holding on properly. At the end of the rapids we were lucky enough to have some extra time on our hands, and the guides gathered all the rafts together to make one giant raft slide!

Our exciting excursion ended with a gentle ride back to home base in a comfortable Pontoon boat cruise. Snuggled up with our dry towels (given to our guides at the beginning of the trip), we took a rest in the shade while enjoying a fantastic BBQ lunch provided by OWL. Shortly after we arrived back at the lodge, we got to rest our weary muscles and watch a video of our adventures on screen.

While white water rafting is in itself a dangerous sport, safety is OWL’s number one priority. From the safety equipment before departure, down to the watchful eyes of the guides, not once did we feel in danger, even while our raft was launched nearly sideways over a wave. OWL’s rafts stick close together to watch the backs of those going through a rapid before and after us, catching anyone who may have fallen from their raft to even looking for lost sandals.

OLM Recommends:

  • Pack lots of sunscreen to wear. You’ll be out in the sun for hours with little shade to protect you from the sun’s rays. On a similar note, some aloe vera might be handy for after the trip!
  • You also will not be able to carry a purse or backpack with you. Your guides can carry smaller items (like sunscreen or medications), but be prepared to spend roughly 6 hours disconnected from your phone, dry clothes, and sunglasses.
  • Wear light and comfortable quick-dry clothes (avoid cotton), and good water shoes or sandals that will stay on your feet.
  • For those lucky enough to have a GoPro or any sort of waterproof camera, we highly recommend bringing it with a helmet attachment or with a strong string that can attach to the life vest. Both hands are required for a majority of the trip to paddle the boat or for holding on to the boat for dear life. If you don’t have one, fret not, OWL has a dedicated videographer and photographer filming your progress down the river and capturing all the best moments.
  • Keep your mouth shut when going through the waves. Trust us.

Rafting trips run until September 11, so if you’re looking for one last huzzah before the summer ends, OWL Rafting is the place to be. Our verdict? 10/10 Best. Day. Ever! A HUGE thanks to the OWL team for making our trip a fun and memorable one!


Capital Pride!

August 21, 2016 4:34 pm
Capital Pride!


Despite the rain slicking the sidewalks on Bank Street, hundreds still ensured that this weather would include plenty of rainbows as they lined the street for today’s Capital Pride Parade. This being the 31st Anniversary of the festival, Ottawa Life takes a look back at Pride past along with today’s events through the lens of photographer Andre Gagne.



Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series will provide a unique look at some of your favourite summer events. We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. Your city! Your festivals! Your summer! Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

One Nation Under Gord

2:17 am
One Nation Under Gord

Photo by Andre Gagne.

“Thanks for listening in the back.
Thanks for listening, period.
Have a nice life.”
-Gord Downie

There are moments in time that unify a people, memories that become the history we look back on remembering where we were, what we were doing, who we were with. “Sorry, we’re closed”, could have read a sign placed on Canada Saturday, August 20, as one rock band from Kingston Ontario and the courage of their lead singer froze a Nation in song.

Related: From 12 to 20,000, The Hip Returns to Ottawa to Say Goodbye

From coast to coast, Tofino to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, they filled homes, parks, bars and parking lots. They sat listening in their cars, stopped on the side of the road. They watched on their phones in airport terminals, on city buses after a long work day. They gathered on George Street in St. John’s, 5,000 strong filled Halifax’s Grand Parade, they were there in Charlottetown, attended all day celebrations in Fredericton and in Fundy National Park, sang together in the streets of Montreal, cried together in Toronto. It was as though the entire town came out in Bobcaygeon! They were there in the Old Market Square in Winnipeg, at the Roxy in Saskatoon and on Stephen Avenue in Calgary. They joined in chorus, the soundtrack of their lives, in Vancouver. Further up North they filled the Fieldhouse in Yellowknife and the Yukon’s Marsh Lake Community Centre.  Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Edmonton, Sarnia, Summerside, Miramichi, they were there.

As fellow musician and friend of the band, Kris Abbott, said earlier this week, it was the “sound of a nation roaring in synchronicity. A massive positive energy force” directed in one direction: Kingston where hometown heroes The Tragically Hip played our country’s songs for the final time.

Broadcast on CBC, it was an epic, near three-hour showcase of the band’s 30 year career that entered into “uncharted waters” with a third encore. Fans inside the Rogers K-Rock Centre didn’t need the seats they were given. They were standing in appreciation before the band even touched the stage. One of them was our leader, Prime Minister Trudeau, dressed in a Hip t-shirt sharing the emotion of his country.

“He’s going to take us where we need to go,” Gord Downie, battling through the illness inside of him for this one last concert, said pausing the show to acknowledge Trudeau before turning his gaze unto the crowd.

“Thank you…thank you for keeping me pushing,” he said not just to those gathered inside the arena or those filling Springer Market Square outside of it, but, you have to believe, to the millions watching across the country.

Here in Ottawa gatherings were held in The Record Centre, D’Arcy McGee’s, the Dovercourt sports field with perhaps the biggest crowd forming in Parkdale Park for an event hosted by city Councillor Jeff Leiper.

“The band is important to my family,” says Leiper. “It’s rock and roll and Canadian infused. For me it’s the connection with the past, a connection with the country in these songs. The band has been the soundtrack no matter where I’ve been in my life.”

But, as the final notes to “Ahead By a Century” were played fans were left to wonder is it really the end? Guitarist Rob Baker gave us a glimmer of hope to hold onto via Twitter when replying to a fan’s post hoping that this wasn’t curtains just yet.

“We never said anything about it,” was Baker’s reply.

HIP (6)

Hundreds watch the show from Parkdale Park in Ottawa. Photo by Andre Gagne.

So many of us have Hip memories. For me it was listening to “Wheat Kings” shortly after my daughter was born or that time in the pouring rain where, drenched to the bone, I sang Fully Completely in it’s entity as the band performed it in full to an ecstatic, wet Bluesfest crowd.

Fans young and old, from all walks of life, took to the television, radio, papers and social media during the day. Here’s just a few comments from this one Nation under Gord:

“There’s so much to celebrate tonight. There’s mixed feelings, for sure for me. I don’t know
if we’re saying goodbye to Gord, whether we’re celebrating him, whether we are
honouring him, whether we are celebrating Canada. All those things I think are
folding in together. This is a moment that is going to be
extremely powerful for all Canadians.”
-Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

“One nation under a spell. Thank you, and goodnight, you glorious King.”
-George Stroumboulopoulos

HIP (3)

Hintonberg store window. Photo by Andre Gagne.

14045791_10154642989581842_7402795089651583082_n“Huge crowd in Halifax Grand Parade for The Tragically Hip –
A National Celebration. What a concert! ‪#‎CBCTheHip‬”
-CBC Nova Scotia (via Facebook)

“They are the soundtrack to my adulthood. I still have really vivid memories of getting together with my university buddies talking about the lyrics to Tragically Hip songs.”
-Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward, Councillor)

46% of Canadians have learned more Canadian history
from Tragically Hip songs than from school.
-Stats Canada

“Their music means freedom and being yourself no matter what the situation.
I had a summer that was very difficult to get through and
I’d just put Nautical Disaster on repeat.”
-Victoria Hodgins (Ottawa, Ontario)

“Thank you guys for all the music over the years. Especially thank you
from a guy from South Carolina who met you guys on a great night in
Columbia, SC on the Trouble at the Henhouse tour. Lost my girlfriend
at that show and kept the music; Very glad I did. Thank you!
-Ken Avin (via Facebook)

“Aug 20, 2016 There is so much to process about The Tragically Hip that
I need to sort out on what level and where to start first. The rest I will do
quietly on my own and probably on the inside.  I am a proud Canadian and the gift
that The Hip gave to us has healed the many wounds of recent.
Together we can “fix” this as Gord says.”
-Kris Abbott (Kingston based musician)

HIP (4)

Spotted in west end Ottawa. Photo by Andre Gagne.

14079650_999449740167706_5746265240397089942_n“Heartfelt thanks for sharing your farewell concert
with the country and the world. Nothing more
authentically Canadian than a summer dock
party in cottage country with the Tragically Hip
being projected over the lake.”
-Kelly Harbridge (via Facebook)


“Yep! It’s all over now and I’m cryin’ like a wuss! Thanx to the Hip for one of the greatest,
if not THE greatest musical ride in Canadian music history! And farewell Gordie Boy!
It ‘s been a blast to scream your lyrics from the top of my lungs
for so many years! We’ll miss you!”
-Tommy Fortin (via Facebook)


A huge gathering in Kingston for the show.

“There’s something going on up north of the border tonight, and it
involves somebody that we can say is a family member There’s a guy who’s got a
band called Tragically Hip. He was very courageous and decided to take his group
out on one last tour and tonight’s the last night of the that run…. so they’re up there
going through the emotions up there…and I just want to send them our
energy from our gathering up to there  gathering up there…
and wish the best to Mr. Gord Downie…We love ya.”
-Eddie Vedder addressing Pearl Jam crowd last night  

“The sound of The Tragically Hip will always ring out across Canada.
It will not stop. It’s in our hearts, our spirits and it’s part of who we
are as a nation. Thanks Gord. Thanks Hip.”
-Marney Yupitsme (via Facebook)

HIP (5)

Ottawa crowd watching the Hip. Photo by Andre Gagne.

“At the end of the day I have my own life to live replete with all of my own hardships
and rewards. The Hip are one of many band’s to contribute to that soundtrack.
Sometimes they are first and foremost, other times just background noise. But like
a good, real good, friend, they are always there whenever I need to come back to them.”
-Mike Morrison (Ottawa)

“Finally, composure has been found. It was a beautiful, bittersweet night.
Thank you to CBC, thank you to The Tragically Hip, and thank you to Gord Downie
especially, for sharing this moment with all of us. You didn’t have to but you did,
and I am forever grateful to you…Thank you for your music. It has done wonders
for me since I was 8 years old. It will continue to be a part of my playlist forever.
For this, I will indeed “Have a nice life”.”
-Derek Pacheco (via Facebook)

“I watched from Cusco, Peru, but I never felt more at home. Gord and the
rest of the band, gave Canadians a wonderful gift last night. It’ll be a night
that’s spoken about from coast to coast, continent to continent for decades to come.”
-Jason Martin (from CBC.ca)

HIP (2)

West end Ottawa shop window. Photo by Andre Gagne.

From 12 to 20,000, The Hip Returns to Ottawa to Say Goodbye

August 19, 2016 1:23 pm
From 12 to 20,000, The Hip Returns to Ottawa to Say Goodbye

All photos by Andre Gagne

‘Til the men they couldn’t hang
stepped to the mic and sang
and their voices rang with that Aryan twang
-The Tragically Hip (Bobcaygeon)

On May 24 a collective gasp went out of a sucker punched nation. Gord Downie, frontman to The Tragically Hip, announced he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. To some, it was a sobering message of our own mortality as we stood in disbelief. Even our heroes must someday fall. However, it’s not the descent that eventually faces us all; it’s what you do before you hit the ground.

The Hip wasn’t quite ready to close the book on 30 years of music and memories. This show would go on one more time, one more tour. Suddenly, our disbelief and sadness transformed into appreciation and inspiration as we readied ourselves to not mourn but celebrate Canada’s band and one man whose willingness to rage against the dying of the light ignited one powerful beacon of a word for his fans and for his country: courage.

The Hip (9 of 21)

Beginning a month after releasing their thirteenth studio album, Man Machine Poem, the band embarked on a tour that would stich a path across Canada. They stopped in places like Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto playing songs about Sarnia, Bobcaygeon, and sundown in the prairies. It’s not hard to see why they have been called Canada’s band.

“Their music is full of imagery and references to feelings and places that we all relate to and are truly Canadian. They have always written from that perspective and have never been tempted to change who they are,” says Kris Abbott.

Now in a duo with partner Dee McNeil as Kris + Dee, Abbott was once part of The Pursuit of Happiness, a Canadian band that started out around the same time as The Tragically Hip. She’s shared a few stages with the band, both of them coming up in the industry congruently, and has many cherished remembrances from the road.

“When I first met The Hip we were all very young playing bars in Kingston. I literally learned how to play guitar in front of them, so they represent a very formative time in my life,” she tells Ottawa Life. “When I was in The Pursuit of Happiness we played many shows together and there was something so special about sharing those roots and watching them grow into the massive icons that they are today.”

The Hip (3 of 21)Downie, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, Rob Baker and Paul Langlois first got together in 1984 in Kingston, Ontario playing gigs around town at places like Alfie’s and the Copper Penny. Early tunes that never saw an official release went by the curious names of “Reformed Baptist Blues” and “Psychedelic Ramblings of Rich Kids”. Their music soon became woven into the quilt of Canadian culture. Songs like “New Orleans is Sinking”, “Little Bones” and “Wheat Kings” became memories for many, moments in time, a treasured soundtrack to days past.

“Their music brings you back home, no matter where you are. There songs are Canadian,” says long-time fan Megan Wilson. “They speak to the world in a bigger sense but when you listen to them as a Canadian you can say I’ve been there or I know where that is. It’s not just small town Canada. It’s the entire country!”

As the band achieved greater success with albums like Up To Here, Road Apples, and Fully Completely, touring the globe and making the shift from bar musicians into icons into legends, the people of Kingston always stood as a city united in pride over their hometown heroes. It was not surprising to learn that this tour would end where it began only, this time, with an entire country watching.

However, before the band takes the stage one last time for their Saturday show in Kingston –set to be broadcast across Canada on CBC– The Tragically Hip had a final stop in the capital where, once upon a time, only 12 people came out to see them.

“All the years of coming here playing to 12 people, then getting up to 24 people, then dropping back down to 17 people,” said a misty-eyed Downie to the now 20,000 plus filling the Canadian Tire Centre with equally damp eyes of their own. “It’s been a good ride here in town. We love it here.”

Ottawa holds a special place for the band being one of the first cities they played in when branching out of Kingston. From Barrymore’s to Bluesfest, some places still here, others long gone, The Hip rocked this town on many nights building up a loyal fan base. People like Tom Toll, dressed in a signature Downie suit, seeing the band for the 31st time that night. Next to him his young son Zachary, also decked out like Gord, was there for his first.

The Hip (1 of 21)“I first saw them in concert at the Roadside Attraction in 1993 at Lansdowne Park. I’ve been a diehard fan ever since,” says Toll, happy to be sharing this moment with his son, the two eyeing a few show t-shirt souvenirs.

They had lots to choose from as multiple sellers were setup outside the gates offering shirts that spanned the band’s entire career. They were even being printed in the parking lot with sales expected to be huge throughout the night.

Some of the sellers have been on the tour almost as long as the band has.

The Hip (2 of 21)

“I kind of refer to it as a good book,” says Mike Middleton as he sells another shirt to a smiling fan. He’s been on board since Vancouver. “In the beginning it was great and I wanted to see the end but now that it’s getting closer to the end I want it to slow down so I can take in every bit.”

Though the show start time was 8:30, the fans arrived early, many sharing memories in the parking lots, leaning up against cars and singing Hip tunes that played over the radio. Some packed tissue, knowing there would be tears but, overall, the tone was a celebratory one.

“It’s like Gord and the band are inviting us along on one last story, telling us in advance to really, really appreciate it because it will be our last one taken together,” says fan Mike Morrison who discovered the band in the glory days of MuchMusic, blown away by Downie’s ability to tell a story. “As horrible as the news was, it offers us this one last, great gift. The gift of appreciation.”

The Hip (4 of 21)

Appreciate they did. When Downie and the band stepped on stage the applause rumbled the seats, a standing ovation before Gord made it to the mic stand. For a moment he let it just hang there, an eruption of love, gratitude and thanks. Then the showman, dressed in glimmering green and a feathered hat, clutched the mic and proceeded to do what he does best.

The Hip (18 of 21)They began at the beginning with two of their first singles, “Boots or Hearts” and the power rocking “Blow at High Dough” with Downie breaking out his sometimes offbeat gyrations right away. The result caused the singer to break a sweat early and peel off his suit jacket, produce his signature handkerchief from his back pocket and mop his brow. When you’re Gord Downie, you always need one of those handy.

The show was designed to allow for various album mini-sets over the two and a half hour long show. Up to Here was capped off with a powerful performance of “New Orleans is Sinking” with the band then launching into material from the new release. 2004’s In Between Evolution was up next with songs “Summer’s Killing Us”, “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night” And “Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park” representing the album.

The band’s first album to debut at #1, Day For Night, followed with a moving rendition of “Nautical Disaster” before the band shifted into their 1997 Juno winning Album of the Year Trouble In The Henhouse to close off the main set with a jubilant “Ahead by a Century”.

The Hip (21 of 21)

Downie hugged his band and then stood alone facing a crowd that cried as much as they smiled. The emotion was felt as high as the rafters. But we stood together this night not in premature mourning but in gratefulness, in thanks for a career of music that defined pieces of our lives and while we are all mortal the songs live forever not to be felled by whatever reasons or ailments that will shuffle us off this spinning ball in the dark.

“Carry on out there,” Downie said, one last wave, before leaving the stage.

We will, Gord. We will with your songs, memories of your energetic, often outright wacky stage presence and for the band that united us as Canadians, an audience always within reach to embrace The Hip fully and completely.   

The Hip (13 of 21)


  1. Boots or Hearts
  2. Blow at High Dough
  3. Opiated
  4. New Orleans Is Sinking
  5. In a World Possessed by the Human Mind
  6. Ocean Next
  7. What Blue
  8. Machine
  9. Summer’s Killing Us
  10. Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park
  11. If New Orleans Is Beat
  12. It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night
  13. Greasy Jungle
  14. Nautical Disaster
  15. So Hard Done By
  16. Grace, Too
  17. Gift Shop
  18. Flamenco
  19. Springtime in Vienna
  20. Ahead by a Century


  1. Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
  2. Wheat Kings
  3. At the Hundredth Meridian

Encore 2:

  1. Bobcaygeon
  2. Poets

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